lunes, noviembre 10, 2008

Worthwhile music from the XXth and XXIst centuries

Although the bulk of the concert repertoire remains the music of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, we certainly need to know –and know well- the music that is closer to us in time, if not in sensibility; some musics of recent decades ("recent" meaning the last ten) remain problematic for the average audience, and some are so even for those of well-honed taste. But it´s certainly aesthetically unhealthy for the listener to remain isolated from the music of his contemporaries and even from that of his grandfathers´ time.

Fortunately this year there has been a good deal of interesting music from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I will give pride of place to the concerts of the series "Classics of the twentieth century" organized by the Fundación Encuentros de Música Contemporánea which celebrates its forty years under Alicia Terzian´s direction. And her Grupo Encuentros commemorates its thirty years of activity. At AMIJAI they offered three concerts complementing the group with "friends" and totalling 17 players. I´m commenting on the first two; I couldn´t hear the third, dedicated to "Borges and the music of Buenos Aires".

Programmes were long and extremely varied. The first started with one of the most hermetic pieces of Ravel, the "Three poems of Mallarmé", sung by mezzo Marta Blanco rather reticently and accompanied by ten players. Seven instrumentalists gave us the fascinating "Chôros No. 7" (1924) by Villa-Lobos. Then, a world premiere, "Tenue brillantez" by Patricia Martínez (1973), a commission from Encuentros, deploying with professionalism the paraphernalia of the avant-garde. I was happy that one of the nicest pieces of our repertoire got a merited revival, Virtú Maragno´s "Baladas amarillas" (1952), well-sung by Blanco. The strangely called "Dramatic Polimaniquexixe" by the Chilean Jorge Antunes (1942) is a short suite billed as "largely erotic" and written for cello, clarinet and piano. Then, a very interesting experience, one of the first pieces conceived for quarter-tones, the Mexican Julián Carrillo´s "Cristóbal Colón" (1925) for voice and seven players. Followed the half-hour cantata "El martirio de Santa Olalla" created by Rodolfo Arizaga in 1952, a valuable composition in stylized Spanish archaism too long absent from our programmes (I was present at its premiere but had never heard it since). Finally, the clearly Armenian "Chant to Vahan" by Terzian herself, a suggestive composition with five small bells.

The often done "O King " by Luciano Berio is a homage to Martin Luther King and it started the second concert. The difficult "Dérive" (1984) is one of the few works by Pierre Boulez heard here, his symphonic works apparently beyond the possibilities of our orchestras; the ensemble played it well, quite a feat. The early "Cabaret songs" (1937-39) by Britten are light and agreeable and were well done by Blanco. Next, a revelation to me, the post-Romantic and very expressive "Der Wind" (1909) by Franz Schreker. Some of Shostakovich´s "Poems by A. Block", spare and stark, were heard, by voice and a piano trio that played separately or jointly in different poems. "Ascolta l´uccellino" is a commission by the Fundación Encuentros to Chilean composer Boris Alvarado and it mixed whistling, singing and avant-garde trademarks. I found Terzian´s "Les yeux fertiles" on Paul Éluard a bit too attuned to current European fingerprints, I prefer her in the Armenian-influenced scores; the piece is sung and spoken, a combination I find forced.

The ensemble is very professional and solid, and was well-rehearsed by Terzian, who also did the somewhat excessive comments. Make no mistake, these concerts were very useful and interesting and prove yet again that Terzian is a major figure in the promotion of the music I´m commenting on.

Apart from the AMIJAI concerts, the 40th International Festival of Encuentros included other sessions. I found particularly important the one dedicated to twentieth-century French music and basically featuring Olivier Messiaen. It happened at the Auditorium of the Consejo Profesional de Ciencias Económicas, a chamber venue of good acoustics at Viamonte 1549. The main work was the transcendental "Quartet for the end of times", an eight-movement instrumental work of moving mysticism written for clarinet, violin, cello and piano and composed at a relatively benign concentration camp in 1941, where it was premiered with the author at the piano. The proficient players were Claudio Espector (piano), Sergio Polizzi (violin, the only one with some difficulties not quite solved), Carlos Nozzi (cello) and Eduardo Ihidoype (clarinet). Also by Messiaen were "Three Melodies" from 1930 and "Le merle noir" for flute and piano. It was interesting to hear "Viens! Une flute invisible soupire…", a piece written for flute, piano and voice by André Caplet in 1900, and Roussel´s "Two poems of Ronsard" (1924) for flute and voice (without the habitual piano). Good jobs from mezzosoprano Marta Blanco and flutist Fabio Mazzitelli. Terzian coordinated.

An independent homage to Messiaen, and a very good one, was the premiere of his "Les corps glorieux", a 1939 score splendidly played by Argentine organist Diego Innocenzi, who resides in Switzerland. In 50 minutes and seven movements we hear "seven brief visions of the life of the reborn". This was at the basilica of the Santo Domingo convent, which holds a splendid organ of very full and varied registers, fully used by Messiaen. The work was impressive, especially in the "Combat between Death and Life". It was certainly useful to see the player via closed-circuit TV.

For Buenos Aires Herald

No hay comentarios.: